About 1.4 million people living in the Sheffield city region will be subjected to England’s tightest coronavirus restrictions after local leaders agreed a deal with the government, the metro mayor, Dan Jarvis, has confirmed.
The South Yorkshire region – which covers Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley – has secured a total of £41m from government in return for shutting pubs and other businesses. The package includes £11m for enhanced test and trace and local enforcement and £30m to support businesses affected by the tier 3 restrictions.
Jarvis said: “We called on government to offer a local lockdown lifeline for our local authorities and economy, and the new restrictions will be introduced alongside resources, which mean we are better equipped to control the virus and limit some of the damage on jobs and businesses.
“While infection rates vary across South Yorkshire, collective action was the only practical choice to keep everyone in our region safe. If restrictions are effective, individual local authorities will be able to move to lower alert levels as soon as it is safe to do so, in consultation with fellow local leaders, myself and national government.”
Pubs, casinos, betting shops and soft play centres will close for at least four weeks across the Sheffield city region. Gyms will remain open but gym classes will not be allowed. The restrictions will come into force at one minute past midnight on Saturday.
While Greater Manchester and its mayor, Andy Burnham, fought a public and increasingly bitter battle over accepting tier 3 restrictions, Jarvis and his South Yorkshire colleagues conducted their negotiations behind closed doors.
The compromise struck is some way from the demands regional leaders made when beginning negotiations on 9 October.
They wrote to Boris Johnson with a five-point plan, which included demands for “local furlough” for workers in businesses who are unable to work or see their hours cut as a result of the restrictions.
“The government should enhance the job support scheme (JSS) to fully fund the costs of the hours not worked up to a limit of £1,400 a month. The self-employment income support scheme should be extended for self-employed and freelance workers for the duration of local restrictions,” they said in the letter.
But in the interim the Treasury ruled out any changes to the national JSS – which offers to pay two-thirds of wages of workers whose firms close because of tier 3 restrictions.
Jarvis also asked for a “targeted support package for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and recreation sectors that are unable to operate at anything like normal levels of capacity, or face entire closure.
“This includes flexible grants administered through local authorities and further business rates concessions after April 2021, to target support at viable firms that will likely have higher fixed costs and whose failure risks an avoidable domino-effect across local economies.”
It is unclear how the Sheffield city region can spend its £30m on business support and over what timeframe.
Following confusion over how the government has decided how much each region gets, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, suggested there was a transparent funding formula.
He told ITV that areas that went into tier 3 would receive £8 a head for track and trace and enforcement and £20 a head for business support.
Based on Jenrick’s formula, the Sheffield city region secured a slightly more generous deal than the first two regions to go into tier 3, Lancashire and Liverpool. working out at around £29 per head across the population of 1.4 million people.